• Survey: Commuters fed up, want action now on transportation

    By: BOB SALSBERG, Associated Press

    Updated:
    BOSTON (AP) - Massachusetts commuters are increasingly fed up with traffic congestion and transit delays, so much so that some are considering changing jobs or leaving the region altogether, according to the results of a survey released on Wednesday.

    The online survey of 1,200 registered voters, conducted statewide over a 10-day period last month by the MassINC polling group, also suggested that frustrated commuters were receptive to the possibility of paying higher taxes to support transportation improvements, though respondents were not asked about any specific, or hypothetical, revenue proposals.

    Gov. Charlie Baker defended his administration's transportation policies while maintaining his no-new-taxes stance.

    "I don't believe that raising taxes is the answer to this problem at this point in time," Baker, a Republican, told reporters at the Statehouse.

    The governor noted the state plans to borrow $8 billion over five years to shore up the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the aging Boston-area transit system plagued by frequent breakdowns and delays. The infusion, he said, would be the largest transportation investment of its kind since the Big Dig.

    "We certainly believe that we have to spend more money on transportation and we're putting our money where our mouth is on that one," Baker said.

    More than 70% of full-time workers surveyed by MassINC reported feeling anger, stress or frustration over their daily commute. A similar number said they had been forced to adjust their routines by leaving earlier or later to avoid the worst commuting times. About half said commuting woes had caused them to be late for work or appointments in recent months.

    The survey revealed 30% of full-time workers were considering changing jobs to ease their commutes, while 23% - or nearly 1 in 4 - said they had given thought to moving somewhere else.

    Two-thirds of respondents agreed it was urgent that policymakers take action on transportation.

    "The patient doesn't need a Band-Aid; the patient needs surgery," said Jesse Mermell, president of the Alliance for Business Leadership, in a statement accompanying the survey. "In order to ensure (Massachusetts') future economic competitiveness, solutions to this problem must be comprehensive, equitable, and implemented quickly."

    Among specific policy ideas, one backed by more than 80% of respondents was offering motorists discounted tolls for driving at off-peak commuting hours. Baker vetoed a state budget amendment last year that proposed testing such an alternative tolling system, expressing doubt about whether it would succeed in reducing traffic congestion and calling for more study.

    On Wednesday, Baker said the state Department of Transportation was in the midst of a "comprehensive" review of traffic-related issues, including the possibility of so-called "congestion pricing." A report was expected within 60 days, he said.

    Democratic House and Senate leaders have not ruled out debating new taxes for transportation and other state needs later in the current legislative session.

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